The second edition of Fashion Weekend Gambia takes place in the capital Banjul from December 6-8 2013.
According to the organizers, It will be three days to showcase the up and coming trends in the fashion industry of the small landlocked country (1.7 million people) that has borders with Senegal.
Lena Grey Johnson is one of the organizers and was in London last month for the African Fashion London. She told Francis Ngwa why they want to internationalize the event this year
Q Why a Gambian fashion weekend?
The fashion industry in the Gambia is fairly new. We want to promote Gambian designers. We want to create a fashion industry basically which will be able to compete on a worlf stage.
Q Gambia is a relatively small country. How will you describe Gambian fashion to someone who knows nothing about it?
It is fresh, new, funky and afro-centred. It is a very small country but there are a lot of designerss coming up there. We now have a growing class of people who are very interested in the local arts, fashion and designs. There hasn’t been a good enough platform for them to express themselves uptill now. It is only in the last two years that the fashion industry in the Gambia has been growing very fast. We now have festivals and fashion shows in the country.
Q What does the average Gambian man, woman wear?
A lot of people in the Gambia wear regular european type dressing but fridays is the day everybody dresses up in traditional wear. I guess fridays because it is the day of prayers, people finish early, they go and visit family and friends. 75 percent of Gambian population is young; which is under 45 years old. Obviously, there is a huge young population that wants to dress funky and nice. When they put on their traditional gear, they want to wear something that is fashionionable.
Q We are doing this Interview on a tuesday in London. If today was friday and you were back in The Gambia, what will you have been wearing?
I will most probably be wearing cloths from one of my favourite designers which is phuzion. I really love her work. Her name says it all. Her work is a mix of different materials and that will include anything from African, to European to Asian styles. She mixes traditional material with a modern touch and her work is very feminine. She is one of the new designers but we also have a lot of young talented designers. If I wasn’t wearing phuzion, I will be wearing one of the others. This could either be Tara and Starfit.
Q What was the reaction in the Gambia when you started organizing the Fashion Weekend?
I think we had a great response. There had been a few other fashion related events but there hasn’t been anything on the scale that we did. We had three days of fashion display and people were really receptive. Phuzion was the new and biggest designer we had during our show last year and now everybody is talking about her. We basically gave a platform for a good number of new designers to exhibit their stuff and that was good for their businesses. Now, everybody is interested in what is going on in the fashion scene in the Gambia.
Q Do you mind talking abit of what you had on show during the three days last year?
The first night was the opening night so what we focused on then was the more elegant wear . We had a few traditional pieces and as I said, there was more elegance for a more upscale crowd. The second day was a street show so it was more street fashion like T shirt printing, hoodies and cloths in that range. We also had performance from a top Gambian artist on the day. The third day was beach wear and was more casual. Basically, we had everything covered in those three days. We had something for everybody.
Q What is going to happen this year that will be new or is it going to be the same old thing as of last year?
We will be keeping the same structure this year. It will be three days, over the weekend. There will still be the fancy elegant stuff on the first night . Second day will still be a street show and third day will be casual wear. The difference this year will be that last year was 95 percent focused on bringing out the Gambian designers; this year, we will be inviting designers from abroad to showcase in the Gambia.We are also looking to bringing in buyers from outside so they can see what we are doing in the Gambia as well.
Q What about your sponsors?
Last year was the first event and people had a lot ofdoubts that we wanted to do a three day fashion show in small Gambia. We managed to get a few sponsors on board but the rest of the financing came from our own pockets. We had among others, Western Union, Afrocell, one of the biggest cell phone companies in The Gambia and a number of other sponsors. For this year, we are hoping to get some more Gambian companies who will benefit from what we are doing. The event is all about selling the Image of the Gambia.
Q You talked about foreign participation this year, any particular targets?
We haven’t really targeted any specific countries but we have a facebook group which is being followed by quite a number of people and designers from around the world. This is the link; https://www.facebook.com/groups/fashiongambia/
We have followers from Nigeria, The Uk, South Africa, the United States and some other countries.
Q How does a designer form Kenya or anywhere else who wants to take part in FWG get to register?
We have an application form which will be out very soon. For now, they can drop us an email to email@example.com.